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Covent Garden area guide

What to see, do, eat, drink and more in London's glitzy district of theatres, shops and restaurants

Gavin Anderson

High on every tourist's visiting agenda, Covent Garden offers a mixed bag of restaurants, shops, hotels. The area is synonymous with the Royal Opera House, hosts daily alfresco entertainment at its central piazza, and is surrounded by a plethora of theatres. Chain stores have moved in, but it’s still a nice place to stroll – if you can catch it early on a fine morning.

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Dishoom
Restaurants

Dishoom

A swish Bombay brasserie in the style of the old post-colonial 'Irani cafés' of Bombay, Dishoom is filled with retro design features: whirring ceiling fans, low-level lighting and walls adorned with vintage Indian magazine advertising. The look is certainly distinctive, but the effect can be so slick when compared to the real thing that the venue can feel rather soulless and corporate. This doesn’t stop the design-conscious and Indophile thronging here through the day, from breakfast (for sausage nan rolls with chilli jam) to dinner (for the stir-fries and tandoori grills). The main attraction though is the menu, loosely styled on Irani café food with birianis, bhel (crunchy puffed rice with tangy tamarind chutney) and even pau bhaji (toasted white bread rolls with a spicy vegetable stew as a filling). Our black dal was exemplary, and the lamb biriani suitably moist. We particuarly like the endlessly refilled house chai (Indian-style tea), but the other drinks are interesting too – excellent lassi concoctions, good wines by the glass, even  the soft drinks Limca and Thums Up in glass bottles imported from Mumbai. Queues are common in the evening (bookings are taken for breakfast and lunch, but only for groups at dinner), though the basement bar helps make the wait more than bearable.  

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Monmouth Coffee Company
Restaurants

Monmouth Coffee Company

Founded 30 years ago, Monmouth sets itself daunting standards for quality and ethical trading, and meets them consistently. This is pre-eminently a place for single-estate and co-operative coffees. You’ll always be able to find a good Kenyan coffee here, and Central and South America are represented by excellent ranges. Founder Anita Le Roy is an industry leader in the campaign to help growers improve quality and earn higher prices. The original shop-café in Covent Garden is tiny and cosy; the Borough space is larger and serves fabulously moreish cakes and savouries to enjoy with your fine brew.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Neal's Yard Dairy
Shopping

Neal's Yard Dairy

A thoroughly British shop with a traditional French attitude to cheese retailing in that, like an affineur, Neal’s Yard buys from small farms and creameries in Britain and Ireland, and matures the cheeses in its own cellars until they're ready to sell in peak condition. It’s best to walk in and ask what’s good today – you’ll be given various tasters by the well-trained staff. Also on sale are oat cakes, English apples (in season) and top-drawer books on cheese and other food. Around Christmas-time, the queue for stilton and Montgomery’s cheddar often runs down the street, so it's just as well the company also has a sizeable shop just off Borough Market. As featured in the 100 best shops in London

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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London Transport Museum
Museums

London Transport Museum

From the entertaining entrance, where audiovisual recordings of transport systems in New York, Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai and New Delhi, as well as London, are shown on screens, you are whisked by lift to the second floor – and back to 1800. The capital's first licensed public transport was the sedan chair, an example of which is on show, but the gorgeous horse-drawn omnibus, from 1805, its painted, flower-bordered designs announcing still-familiar routes, is a bigger draw. Progress leads you ever onwards, to the building of our first passenger railway – from London Bridge to Greenwich in 1833. The first floor of the London Transport Museum holds perhaps the most exciting displays, including the first underground engine (steam-powered) and a wooden Metropolitan Railway coach (converted to electricity in 1901); one of several exhibits you can board. Frank Pick, the man responsible for rolling out the London Underground brand and giving each line its own character and ensuring the emblematic bar and circle logo became an intrinsic part of London's visual identity, to the extent it now signifies 'tube station' without the need for words, is the focus of the design display. London Transport's posters – by the likes of Abram Games, Graham Sutherland and Ivon Hitchens – are on show throughout museum. Many are design icons, though none is greater than Harry Beck's original tube map. A family play zone for children aged 0-7, All Aboard, features a fleet of mini vehicles to climb into a

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Phoenix Artist Club
Bars and pubs Book online

Phoenix Artist Club

This legendary late-night bar and brasserie has been going through something of a revamp over the last year or so - all in an effort to return it to its art deco roots. Sagely they've kept the walls much the same, still festooned with headshots. Membership is required to gain entry after 9pm but if you've been to the theatre show the guys on the door your stub and, if there's enough room, they'll let you in. And if you really like what's inside? Membership starts at £70 a year.  Keep an eye out for cabaret, musical theatre open mic nights, impromptu performances and more - more often than not from West End casts (they often make a beeline for here). The brasserie serves seasonal British food Tuesday-Saturday evenings, with late-night pizzas available from 9.30pm. There's free wi-fi and portable chargers, too.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Things to do in Covent Garden

Cheap eats in Covent Garden
Restaurants

Cheap eats in Covent Garden

Finding somewhere decent to eat on a budget isn’t always easy in central London, but if you know where to look, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into in the Covent Garden area. From British to Japanese, Indian or vegetarian have a look at our top picks below. Do you agree with our choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.

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Where to shop
Shopping

Where to shop

Covent Garden is brimming with fashion boutiques and vintage stores. Home to fashion favourites such as Rokit, Orla Kiely and Opening Ceremony, as well as a smattering of beauty and skincare stores, Covent Garden is a real shopping destination for the fashion forward - and with amazing new shops like Farrell and Y-3 popping up, there's more reason than ever to stop by this evolving shopping destination.Think we've missed a shopping gem in Covent Garden? Let us know in the comment box below.

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Covent Garden's best pubs
Bars and pubs

Covent Garden's best pubs

Covent Garden boasts an array of pubs ranging from traditional (like Cross Keys) to modern (Porterhouse). The area is home to one of London's oldest pubs, The Lamb and Flag. Use our guide to discover WC2's best watering holes. Think we've missed a great pub in Covent Garden? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions. And don't forget to check out our guide to Covent Garden's best bars.

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Covent Garden's best bars
Bars and pubs

Covent Garden's best bars

Cabaret, live music and some of the city's best cocktails - Covent Garden has it all. Try the raunchy fun of cabaret bar Cellar Door, or hang out at relaxed wine bar Bedford & Strand. The area's drinking scene is diverse, so check out more of our picks of the best places for after-hours drinks in the area. Think we've missed a great bar in Covent Garden? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions. And don't forget to read our guide to Covent Garden pubs.

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See a play in the West End

Top 10 West End theatre shows
Theatre

Top 10 West End theatre shows

Make sure you're booking for the best of the season with our critics' guide to the ten most recommended West End theatre shows on right now. The list will be updated weekly as new West End plays and musicals open and old ones close.

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Cheap West End theatre tickets
Theatre

Cheap West End theatre tickets

Unless the show is very hot or the run is short, you should be able to shop around and get discounted tickets to any West End show via third party sellers like our own Time Out theatre tickets service and TKTS.  Cheap seats aren't guaranteed to be great seats but many big shows release excellent day tickets on the day of performance, generally at a cheap rate, available from the box office only. See below for show-by-show info on day tickets and Time Out's best West End offers.

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